How To Strike The Right Balance For Effective PM

Posted by Gerry Martin on 5 February 2013

I recently heard a senior business manager say “eight out of 10 project managers are useless.” This surprised me because I’ve done my share of project management over the years and worked with a great number of project managers, and my experience would suggest that a vast majority are very good at what they do. So why is it that this particular manager had such a bad experience?

The answer may be that too often, we are bringing project managers into environments where it is unnecessarily difficult for them to succeed. By this, I mean environments where there are no standards, no processes, no frameworks and no consistent method for getting work done. The proliferation of PMI and Prince Methodologies over recent years suggests that many of us have drawn the same conclusions but - given our manager’s comment above – delivering the results the business expects requires more than simply the implementation of a cookie cutter methodology.

On the plus side, the drive for standardised methodologies is one indication that most of us are committed to finding ways to improve our approach to project management and to demonstrate business value. On the downside, one of the concerns voiced by management about these commercial project management methodologies is that they “over cook” the problem, particularly in relation to the scale of most projects in the New Zealand environment. Here, there is no appetite for a complicated 400 page recipe.

The answer, I believe, lies in taking the best aspects of the PM commercial methodologies and balancing them with a pragmatic dose of industry experience, adapting the approach to fit the scale of and complexity of projects we tend to see in this country. The result is a solution delivery life cycle - which we call The Optimation Way – that can be easily tailored to extract the essence of project management as it applies to your individual requirements, ensuring that you get a methodology that is designed to meet your specific organisational challenges and needs.

This balanced approach also addresses another concern that you may have, which is that structure and methodology stifle innovation and creativity. In fact, the opposite is true. A good methodology is not “paint by numbers” but more a “consistent language”. A good analogy would be to consider the conversation between two people using a language where the words sounded similar, but had different meanings; you can imagine the frustration that this would cause to a busy senior manager. The Optimation Way ensures that everyone is using the same language and understands what each document is used for. Creativity thrives with structure and, like most human beings, project managers thrive in an environment where they have a consistent framework to define what is expected of them and a common understanding of the language being used.

We recently started working with a large New Zealand company that, like many local companies, is suffering from being too busy to stop and fix their methods and processes. However, they have a clear view of the outcomes they need to achieve. With The Optimation Way, we were able to give them a tailored methodology that has the right level of structure and complexity for their business, and that clearly demonstrates how it will deliver on their goals. We won the work because they trusted that we understood their requirements and had a practical solution to their problems. We “get it”.